Currently I'm at the Shanghai airport heading to Bombay thinking what to do. So I thought lets write about my experience at China :)
I was in complete awe when I went from the Shanghai airport to my sister's home. Very good multiple lane roads with directions in English and Mandarin. Skyscrapers and huge apartment buildings and bridges with neon lights everywhere.
I spent in all 3 days in Shanghai. It was very easy to get around as my sister took me to all places with a chauffeur driven car :) Covered places including the Yuyan garden, Jade Buddha Temple, Longhua Pagoda etc. Most impressive was the recently inaugurated Shanghai World Financial Center. It has a
shape of a bottle opener. I think currently its *one of the tallest towers* in the World (yes taller than Petronas in Malaysia). Visitors can go all the way to the top level where flooring is made of glass tiles! So you can actually see the bottom and I can tell you it was very scary to step on it :)
Next I went to Beijing for 2 days by myself. On the first day I visited the Forbidden City, Tianamen Square and strolled around in the neighbouring areas. My life was made easy by the Lonely Planet Beijing City Guide that I was carrying with myself from the US. I could see the influence of Olympics as I could still see signs of Beijing 2008 at most places. Also Olympics contributed towards many infrastructure developments in the city. They added around 5 additional subway lines from the earlier 2! It was very easy to get around using subway. I could see lot of buses plying but it would be hard to figure which bus to take, where to get off etc. Taxis are relatively inexpensive starting from 11 Yuan.(1 USD == 7 Yuan approx)
I stayed at an international youth hostel which was pretty cheap for around 60 Yuan for 1 night. I met groups of backpackers there. It was just amazing to hear about the plans they had. Some heading to Africa from Beijing, some going to Moscow taking the Trans-Siberian train which will take them 15 days!
Next day early morning we headed to visit the Great Wall. We took the 10k trek on the Wall starting from Jingshanling which is 120 km from Beijing. Trek was hard, really hard as the Wall has steep inclines. Moreover it was made difficult by the first snowfall of the winters on that day. But the experience was just breathtaking!
About the food, I could see that Chinese are big on pork. Inspite of being non-vegetarian it wasn't easy to find food with just chicken/sea-food. Also even at the upscale restaurants the waiters won't understand English much, so its hard to customize your dish like replace pork with chicken, no mushroom etc. I relied on the McDonalds/KFC for my meals. If you are a vegetarian visiting, hmmm.... I noticed that the decibel levels at the restaurants are relatively high. Initially I thought there is some fight going on in the restaurant but that was the case at most places.
I would highly recommend visiting China, Shanghai in particular just to have a look at the pace at which the city/country has progressed. We keep reading about articles suggesting the shift of power from West to the countries in Asia specifically to China and I won't be surprised that in next 25 years China emerges as the new superpower. Also the talk about transforming Mumbai to Shanghai, I would be glad if that does happen :)